DfE signals its intent to tackle teacher shortages

18 Apr

I        Some hard facts

Schools and academies are suffering budget reductions in real terms causing trustees, governors and headteachers to consider staff reductions.  These difficulties are being exacerbated by teacher shortages.

Recent recruitment and retention statistics showed that the teaching profession was a profession in crisis. In 2017, nearly 35,000 teachers left the profession for reasons other than retirement, with four in 10 teachers quitting within their first year of qualification.

It’s not hard to see why.  Horror stories continue to proliferate of dedicated teachers suffering burnout and leaving the profession.  Here are some facts.

(1)        20% of teachers feel tense about their jobs most or all the time compared with 13% of those in similar professions.

(2)        41% of teachers are dissatisfied with the amount of leisure time they have compared with 32% of those in similar professions.

(3)        23% of full-time teachers would like to reduce their working hours even if it meant taking a pay cut, compared with 17% of those in similar professions.

(4)        The pay of average teachers fell by 12% since 2010 in real terms.

II       Causes of the teacher crisis

In its annual report published on 25 February 2019, the National Foundation for Education Research revealed the following.

  • The secondary school system is facing a substantial teacher supply challenge over the next decade.
  • Retention rates of early-career teachers (between two and five years into their careers) have dropped significantly between 2012 and 2018.
  • Alternative sources of teacher supply, such as returners and overseas-trained teachers, have not increased despite the growing supply challenge.
  • One in five teachers (20%) feel tense about their jobs most or all the time, compared to 13% of similar professionals. Two out of five teachers (41%) are dissatisfied with the amount of leisure time they have, compared to 32% of similar professionals.
  • Teaching’s traditional ‘recession-proof’ advantage over other professions has eroded over time due to a relatively strong graduate labour market. High job security for graduates outside of teaching makes it harder to attract them into teaching and retain them.

The Office for National Statistics reported that the risk of suicide for primary and nursery schoolteachers in England between 2011 and 2015 was 42% higher than the national average.

These statistics, and the resultant recruitment and retention crisis, were unsurprising given that we have had government involvement in education creating

  • a standards-driven approach,
  • an increasingly narrow curriculum and teaching to the test,
  • Ofsted ratings and
  • the relentless promotion of results and performance in league tables.

Dr Sarah Charles, Head of Discipline for Initial Primary Teacher Education at the University of Derby, was commissioned to look at the crisis and advise on how to improve teacher recruitment and retention.   She identified the following barriers to teacher recruitment and retention.

Barrier 1:         The wider context in which headteachers operate can create pressure that leads to excessive workload that distracts teachers from teaching.

Barrier 2:         Not enough early career teachers receive the high-quality support they need to build the foundation for a successful career.

Barrier 3:         A career in teaching does not always adapt to the expertise and lives of teachers.

Barrier 4:         The process to become a teacher is too complicated and burdensome.

III     The action that the Department for Education is taking

In its Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, which the Department for Education (DfE) published at the end of February 2019, it set out its priorities, challenges and the action it would be taking, which in brief were as follows.

First Priority

Establish more supportive school/academy cultures and reduce workloads. 

Problem:          The DfE acknowledged that the current system of school/academy accountability could be confusing for leaders, which sometimes leaves teachers unsure about what they need to do creating extra pressures.

Action:            Accordingly, the DfE plans to work with Ofsted to simplify the accountability system and reduce any unnecessary pressure it places on teachers.  This includes clarifying when a school/academy will receive an offer of support and consulting on removing the floor and coasting standards.  In addition, the new Ofsted framework will have an active focus on reducing teacher workload.

Second Priority

Transform support for early career teachers

Problem:         At the start of their careers, teachers don’t always get the support they need to build successful careers and, at the moment, too many end up leaving.

Action:            The DfE intends to transform the support for early career teachers introducing (according to the government) the “most significant reform to teaching since it became a graduate profession”.  The Early Careers Framework will underpin an entitlement to a funded two-year support package for all new teachers, providing them with the support enjoyed by other top professions.  This will include a dedicated mentor and a reduced timetable for early career teachers giving them the time and sustenance to focus on their professional development.

Third Priority

Make sure teaching remains an attractive career as lifestyles and aspirations change

Problem:         As their life circumstances change, many teachers wish for more flexible working patterns and career journeys, but these opportunities can be hard to find within teaching.

Action:            Help expand flexible working by launching a new job-share service to assist those interested to find opportunities and work with the sector to make sure that quality tools exist to support workforce flexibility.   Also create new specialist qualifications for those who want to develop their careers and progress without going down the usual leadership route.

Fourth Priority

Make it easier for great people to become teachers

Problem:         Many people want to become teachers, but several don’t have opportunities to try teaching out and many are put off by the long and complicated application process.

Action:            The DfE is in the process of simplifying the route into teaching by introducing a new ‘one-stop’ application system for initial teacher training (ITT).  The DfE will also launch new ‘Discover Teaching’ initiatives later in 2019 so that more people get opportunities to try out teaching before they apply.

According to a DfE bulletin, “The education secretary Damian Hinds has made it a priority to attract and keep great teachers through our new recruitment and retention strategy. The strategy includes the Early Career Framework which will be backed by £130 m a year in extra funding when fully rolled out. It will also support teachers in their career progression and reducing workload.”

For starters, the Department for education has opened a finding a teacher’s job website both, to help unemployed teachers and schools and academies ensure that our institutions are appropriately staffed.

School and academies governors and leaders hope that the strategy works.  The children are our future and these institutions and the teaching profession are in the front line to secure it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: